Music Opinion

Tired of the Hottest 100? We've got countdowns for you!

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Doja Cat took out the top spot in the JJJ Hottest 100, causing a blaze of online vitriol (Screenshot via YouTube)

After scathing criticism over its choices, the Triple J Hottest 100 has left a bitter taste in the mouth of Australian music fans. IA's music guru David Kowalski offers some alternatives to those who enjoy a cracking countdown.

THE TRIPLE J Hottest 100, the world’s biggest musical democracy (allegedly), has been and gone for another year. It was a big year of firsts, new debuts and records broken, and in its wake, vast amounts of social media users have left comments that were scathing at the results.

First the good news. Non-binary Australian multi-instrumentalist G-Flip has broken the record for the most songs by one artist in a single countdown (seven, breaking a long-held record shared by Wolfmother and Spacey Jane at six songs each). Fifty-two Australian songs were in the countdown and many of the bands I have championed in these pages made it into the final list.

The winner of the contest however has earned the most derision — ‘Paint the Town Red’ by Doja Cat. It is something of a landmark feat, being the first woman of colour to top the countdown and also the first female rapper to do so. It is also a landmark song, creating heaps of controversy among conservatives in the U.S. for its provocative video. That didn’t stop the usual complaints that the winner should’ve been someone else, or that the winner should’ve been Australian.

These annual countdowns are always something of a high-altitude drone snapshot documenting a micro-universe of culture. They hold up a mirror to the people that exist within it and it illuminates their tastes and opinions. After all, those within these cultural spaces are those who vote for the best of it. It’s all opinion-based and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

That said, if Doja Cat topping a national song countdown doesn’t float your boat, there are several other year-end countdowns to get excited about instead.

We built Steel City on rock n' roll

The Newcastle NSW music scene has always been vibrant and healthy, none more so than right now. For every act like Silverchair or the Screaming Jets that has become globally recognised, there are at least a hundred other bands that never made it that far who were just as great as those, if not even better.

The Newcastle Music Show does a great job of chronicling the scene and giving digital airplay to loads of local artists. The program used to be on internet radio station Newcastle Live, however, it is now on a dedicated stream, broadcasting a new show at 6 PM EST on a Monday night. Or you can find the show on Spotify.

Their annual countdown is called the Steel City 50 and it was broadcast live from Hiss and Crackle Records on New Year’s Eve.

This year’s winner took out both #1 and #2. The band is Catpiss, a local punk band with serious political leanings. The winning song was ‘Desensitised’, a stinging critique of the media and the public’s passive consumption of tragedy dressed up as news.

Will the real Hot 100 please stand up?

The Hot 100 of Brisbane community radio station 4ZZZ-FM is the original 100-song countdown, the one from which Triple J actually nicked the idea for their countdown. This countdown goes to air on New Year’s Day and is also a live broadcast from a venue in the Brisbane CBD, where you can sink a few beverages and enjoy the tunes as the songs are counted down.

The difference with this one is that there is only one song per artist in the countdown. If more than one song by an artist is popular and is voted for, the highest charting one is kept and the rest are removed. This gives the most access to the list for the most number of acts. The countdown has been topped by an Australian artist every year since at least 2011, when Gotye won with his galaxy-conquering hit, Somebody That I Used to Know, and has been won by notable Aussie bands like Violent Soho and WAAX in recent years.

This year it was won for the second year in a row by Brisbane melodic punk band Square Tugs with their rather succinct banger, ‘One Minute Love Song’. It does precisely what it says on the tin.

SBS — chilled to perfection

Australian national public broadcaster SBS has been doing a lot in the radio space in recent years and its radio station, SBS Chill, has been gaining quite a bit of traction. It has started an annual countdown called the Chillest 100 (see what they did there?) and it features the best laid-back and ambient electronic tracks as voted by listeners. The songs are not confined to being released within a single year, either. Within the countdown, you can find entries by Moby, Boards of Canada and Portishead, but the ultimate winner was Groove Armada with ‘At The River’.

X marks the spot

UK-based radio station Radio X is a national DAB+ and FM station doing big things on a small-ish budget. It has a huge social media presence and strives to bring the best new and classic indie and alternative music to the airwaves. Their annual poll of the Record of the Year of 2023 was broadcast before Christmas and the top ten featured the new Beatles track Now and Then at #4, as well as two Foo Fighters tracks.

But the ultimate winner was the angular and moody UK band Nothing But Thieves and their single, ‘Overcome’.

Over the Easter weekend, Radio X usually does a 100-song countdown of the Best of British music and, in recent years, the results have been almost as contentious and complained about as the Triple J countdown. We will cover the results here when it drops later in the year

Until next time…


David Kowalski is a writer, musician, educator, sound engineer and podcaster. His podcasts 'The Sound and the Fury Podcast' and 'Audio Cumulus' can be heard exclusively here. You can follow David on Twitter @sound_fury_pod.

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